It’s that time again Hornets fans!
The G-League reagular season is coming to an end, and, with the Swarm not reaching the playoffs for the third straight season, we must look at the offseason layouts for the team. Currently, the Hornets have both guards Joe Chealey and J.P. Macura under a two-way deal. These deals are an annual contract, so the Hornets have to make the decision of whether or not to rescind their contract.
Last season, the team terminated both Mangok Mathiang and Marcus Paige’s contract a short time after the season was over. For those wondering, Mathiang is playing for Vanoli Cremona of the Lega Basket Serie A in Italy while Paige is playing for Partizan of the ABA League in Serbia.
It goes to show how quickly live as a professional basketball player can change.
Here are my predictions on what the Hornets should do with their current two-way players.
Stats with Swarm: 16.3 points, 5.4 assists, and 3.6 rebounds per game; shooting .437/.333/.773
Chealey performed as expected this year for the Greensboro Swarm. He was able to translate his outstanding shooting at the University of Charleston over to the next stage of his basketball career. At times he looked like the catalyst on offense, providing the team with needed support in virtually every area offensively.
Unfortunately, there are other, uncontrollable factors that put his long-time stint with the organization in jeopardy.
First, the Swarm has done an excellent job in building their team around guard play. They were able to acquire players, primarily with a cheaper price tag, that has made some of the impacts that Chealey has made on the floor. Tyler Nelson and Jaylen Bareford are the ones that come to mind. They were able to outperform Chealey in areas that Chealey struggled like the three-point shot, and used it as a stepping point for their eventual increase in minutes.
With the rise in play from these two, it puts into question Chealey’s ideal future on the team. Having a solidified backcourt, it may be an opportune time for the Swarm to use acquire a much-needed small forward in the offseason in exchange for Chealey’s services elsewhere. It will generate well for both parties as he, Chealey, will have more playing time while the Swarm acquires a player for a position that they have been searching for since their inaugural season three years ago.
The other factor that has to be in the discussion is Hornets guard and former second-round draft pick Devonte Graham. Graham has exceeded expectations, just as Dwayne Bacon did the previous season. His time in Greensboro was one of much success, as he averaged 23.3 points, 4.6 assists and 4.7 rebounds while making nearly four threes a game off a 38 percent clip.
Graham has also been a serviceable backup point guard for the Hornets whenever veteran guard Tony Parker sat out a game due to rest. He was also able to manage the starting shooting guard spot at times this season. In his three games starting, Graham averaged 9.3 points and 4.7 assists while shooting 40 percent from three. Showing a consistent level of facilitating, he has been the biggest surprise, positively speaking, for the Hornets this season.
With Graham having the impressive rookie season, it looks like Chealey may be the odd man out in this situation. The Hornets have a point guard for the future, and should not look to keep a point guard on a two-way deal, and signing a veteran should be the way to go.
Decision: Release Chealey’s two-way deal, will play with Greensboro Swarm full-time.
Stats with Swarm: 15.7 points, 2.6 assists, 3.6 rebounds per game; shooting .455/.378/.747
To many Hornets fans, this season was a bland outing for Macura. With the hype surrounding the 6’5” guard and his ability to shoot from Curry-land, that excitement never truly came into fruition.
However, it’s not like this year was not a disappointing effort. Macura started at positions one through four this season and looked as versatile as any player in the G League. He wasn’t afraid to play post defense and was able to hold his ground against the bigger opponents he faced up against.
This versatility is not and should not be just a sales pitch to keep Macura past this season. He is simply a more intricate player than that. Looking at his time in Xavier, he has shown the ability to knock shots in at a rapid rate, a microwave ability if you will. Although that was not fully shown in Greensboro this year, it is still a skill that is in him and one that cannot be taught.
Projecting the Hornets roster through the offseason, they are going to endure some of the hardest decision the franchise has ever dealt with. This is primarily due to the team’s two best scorers: Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb, who are both set to hit the free-agent market this summer. The result of even one of these two players leaving will cause a major scoring dilemma that will affect the organization as a whole.
As a result, there should be a need to find an immediate hole. With all the assets the team has, which will include a draft pick around 10-13, placing Macura on the official roster is the most realistic and financially supportive decision. Let him learn under the likes of Nic Batum, and he may blossom into the point forward that the franchise has not seen since the Steven Jackson days.
Decision: Convert Macura’s two-way deal to a two-year deal fully with the Charlotte Hornets.
As for who should be the face of the next two-way deals, the Hornets should look for more frontcourt depth. Players who can provide energy and efficiency on both ends of the floor.
One may be recent Swarm signee Malik Pope. As for the other, expect it to be an undrafted free agent.